Cowboy Boots: A Fascinating History

The western style of cowboy boots has been making fashion statements worldwide for several decades. This classic footwear is now worn by everyone from the most well-known A-listers in Hollywood to the everyday regular Joe’ on the street and is available in a wide range of materials, styles, and colors to suit every taste. Cowboy boots have become a part of our everyday lives, so it’s only fitting that we take a look back in time to observe how this classic American footwear has changed throughout history.

The Beginnings

American cowboys earned their living by herding cattle on ranches in the ‘Wild West.’ These cattle ranch workers have worn cowboy boots since the late 1800s, and they are made of a particular leather. Originally, cowhide leather was used exclusively in the construction of these boots. The boots were created to protect the feet and legs while riding horses and working in difficult situations. A typical pair of cowboy boots used by herders had a high top or shaft to cover the lower legs and pointed toes to aid in the placement of the boot into the stirrup of the saddle, among other features. The boots’ high heel was intended to keep the riders’ feet securely in the stirrups while riding, and it also allowed for the attachment of removable spurs to the boots.

How did Spanish ranchers influence cowboy design?

The vaquero tradition of Spain, which dates back to the 1500s and is being practiced today, impacted the design of the first cowboy boots. The vaquero is a cattle herder who travels to herd herds on horseback. The tradition of the vaquero has also taken root in Mexico. As recorded in history, cattle herders from Mexico migrated to the United States in the late 1600s, bringing the vaquero customs, including the clothes and boots still worn in the region today. The traditional footwear worn by these gentlemen served as the inspiration for developing the American cowboy boot in the nineteenth century. The first cowboy boots in America were all individually produced by boot makers who sold their wares in settlements and towns throughout the western United States. Visit here to learn more about vintage cowboy boots. 

The Industrial Revolution Ushered in Mass Production

In historical terms, the Industrial Revolution is defined as the period spanning the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s. During this period, a significant turning point in manufacturing occurred, heralding the beginning of the mass manufacture of cowboy boots. Western boots with characteristics such as decorative topstitching and geometric pattern cuts began appearing on the pages of fashion publications. A common practice among cowboys between the mid-1800s and the 1890s was the transportation of cattle from Texas to Kansas. This was the period in which people other than ranchers, herders, and farm laborers began to wear leather cowboy boots with long shafts to protect themselves against brush, thorns, and dangerous snakes when walking and riding horses which even today, men’s work boots from Wei’s is still crafted with these tasks in mind. 

Cowboy Boots of Today

Cowhide, snakeskin, ostrich, alligator, buffalo, and eel are used to make modern-day cowboy boots, which are also available in various colors. It’s amazing to imagine that the cowboy boot has grown over the decades from a basic boot used for horseback riding to footwear that has taken center stage as desirable wardrobe pieces.